Energy bills and your rights
Understanding your energy bills will help you budget your expenditure throughout the year and avoid the risk of bill shock. For example, you can calculate your fortnightly use by multiplying your 'average cost per day' shown on your bill by 14.
You should record your meter reading and keep receipts of bill payments and cross reference these to your actual bill to check you are being charged correctly.
If you have done all that you can to reduce your energy use and are still have difficulty paying your bill, take action early and don't ignore the problem.
- Contact your retailer as soon as possible. Energy and Water retailers are obliged to offer flexible payment options for customers experiencing financial difficulties. Explaining your situation early can help you avoid late payment fees or debt collector fees.
- Ask the retailer about their hardship programs. Only agree to an instalment amount you can realistically afford. If you miss a payment, or pay less than your agreed amount, your plan will be cancelled.
- Contact a financial counsellor who can help you work out a budget and help you negotiate a repayment plan - phone 1800 007 007 (free call), 9.30 am to 4.00 pm, Monday to Friday.
You cannot be disconnected if you stick to your payment plan.
Eligible South Australians on low or fixed incomes can receive an energy bill concession.
Having your meter read
It is your responsibility to provide safe and unhindered access to your meter for readings every three months. If your meter is inaccessible for any reason, an estimated reading will be provided by your retailer (this will be indicated on your bill). At a minimum, you are obliged to provide access to your meter at least once every 12 months. This can be done by arranging a date and time with your retailer.
If you believe your meter is faulty, it is possible to arrange for a meter test, but there is a cost involved. Generally, meters meet high Australian standards - more than 98% of meters tested do not have any faults.
Transferring to another retailer
If you are considering transferring to another retailer, there are a few things you should be aware of.
- Your contract may incur penalties if you move to another retailer. You may be charged a termination fee if you choose to end your contract early.
- Concessions don't automatically come across with you. Email email@example.com or telephone the concessions hotline on 1800 307 758 to let them know your new details.
- Centrepay or other payment plans will need to be updated with your new retailer and account details.
- After the due date on your final bill from a retailer, you are no longer a customer of that particular retailer, and they are no longer obliged to offer any payment plan. They may refer outstanding debts to a debt collector.
- The Australian Energy Regulator provides an independent price comparison service, and Energy Made Easy compares energy offers in your area. There are other price comparison services, but some of these are not fully independent. They may represent a select group of retailers from whom they receive a commission.
Making a complaint
If you wish to make a complaint, it is important that you contact your retailer in the first instance. It is equally important that you are well prepared before you contact them. You should have all of your information together - eg your most recent bills, letters sent by your retailer, photos of your meter.
If you are disputing an amount owing, you still need to pay the amount not in dispute - this will help ensure you don't end up with a much larger debt by the time the next bill is due.
When you make your complaint:
- make note of the date and time of the call, name of the person you spoke to, or ask for proof of the discussion, such as a reference number. Keep a copy of your notes for future reference.
- state clearly how you would like your issue resolved.
- if the person you are speaking to is unable to meet your expectations, ask to escalate the complaint and speak to a supervisor. If you remain dissatisfied after speaking to a supervisor, contact the SA Energy and Water Ombudsman.
There are certain circumstances under which retailers are not allowed to disconnect supply. If you are wrongfully disconnected, you are entitled to claim compensation from the retailer.
Disconnection is a last resort and retailers must take a number of steps before disconnecting a customer. They must give you a reminder notice and a disconnection warning notice.
You cannot be disconnected:
- if you are on a payment plan and have adhered to the terms of the plan
- if you are on a hardship program and have adhered to the terms of the program
- if you live in a property registered as requiring life-support equipment
- between 20 and 31 December or in extreme weather conditions (such as a heatwave)
- after 3.00 pm on a business day
- on a Friday, weekend, public holiday, or the day before a public holiday.
Water cannot be disconnected because of health reasons, but water flow can be severely restricted.
Energy and Water Ombudsman SA
The Energy and Water Ombudsman SA is an independent body that can investigate and resolve disputes between customers and electricity, gas and water suppliers. The services are free to energy and water consumers in South Australia. Further information is available through their website, and you can contact them via:
- online form
- phone - freecall 1800 665 565
- post - GPO Box 2947, Adelaide, 5001.
Managing energy services at home: a guide to rights, contracts and bills - Australian Energy Regulator